New East Digital Archive

Chiselled beauty: portraits of fatefully fragile youth

Ukrainian photographer Daria Svertilova juxtaposes young men with classical sculptures

20 November 2015

Daria Svertilova’s photographic work sensitively expresses her concern with eternal beauty, fleeting youth and the reality of duration. Born in Odessa and presently just 19 years old, she uses male portraiture to explore these ideas with delicacy and elegance, communicating a serious consideration of form. She first discovered the poetic possibilities of young males for quite practical reasons: “Guys don’t spend tons of time in front of the mirror. They don’t know which is their best angle; they don’t know how to present themselves in the best light. As a result they are more natural, they don’t pose.” Daria’s medium-format images isolate with compassion the fragile and ephemeral spirit of boyhood. Her most recent work features diptychs of profoundly contrasting elements — stone and flesh. The juxtapositions of young men and classical sculpture articulate the insuperable conflict between beauty and time’s irresistible force. The concept came to her after a chance encounter with Canova’s Cupid & Psyche: “I was fascinated by it long before I saw it in the Louvre. For me it has always been like a romantic dream, a poem of pure love. I got to the Louvre, got lost inside yet somehow I wound up at Cupid and Psyche’s feet. I took it as a sign.” Such unexpected conjunctions offer a powerful antidote to the contemporary commodification of youth in visual culture — the world belongs to the young…as long as they are young.